When I grew up in the ’70’s it seemed like everyone listened to the same music. There were different genres like Motown, Disco, and Rock but it was rare that someone you knew only listened to one. Most stations played a mix so you heard both Springsteen and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Up to the mid ’80’s the situation changed little as Journey and Michael Jackson coexisted, appealing to all (young) demographic groups.
In the 90’s this situation changed as baby boomers went off on their own and classic stations boomed. Teeny-pop took off side by side with Rap and the audiences separated. Watching the Grammy’s became harder and harder as each faction would have to sit through some award or performance that they couldn’t stand. The internet made these divisions even greater.
I feel that the same dynamic has occurred in politics. After the death of the Soviet Union we lost a common thread between our two parties that made them cooperate. War or the threat of war used to unite southern racists with northeaster liberals. Now that globalization has broken the rather solid record of capitalism, everything is on the table. We can make a good case for tax cuts and tax increases. One can argue reasonably for more and for less government. Isolationism has returned to the menu.
The parties can’t keep up. Is the Republican Party in favor of more or less trade? Does it want giant tax cuts for all or is it the party of fiscal austerity? Is the Democratic Party progressive as in Bernie Sanders or pro status quo as in Hillary Clinton?
As the economic ideologies crack and creeping liberalism takes over issues like drug legalization and gay marriage, two parties can never articulate the myriad of views held by each member or party. The Republicans, by accident, solved this by choosing a candidate who stood for a host of contradicting positions. As a populist he stood against trade and for deportations. As a Republican billionaire he loves trade and cheap labor for big business.
We are left to wonder what the nature of the next government will look like. Will it have a Rick Santorum, Christian right theme? Will Trump invade Syria or pretend it does’t exist. He could come out for giant tax cuts or for fiscal austerity. Whatever he chooses there will be support from some corner of the party because it has so many factions.
We need more parties.
If we did, we could split the Dems into a centrist wing and a Bernie Green Party wing. The Repubs would become at least three parties: Libertarians, big defense, corporate tax cutting foreign interventionists, and populist isolationists who want to build walls and raise tariffs.
If we had a number of parties they would be forced to build coalitions to pass bills. Yes it would be hard to find agreement but it can’t be any worse than it is now. The other thing it would solve is the chance that one wing wins an election and the other wing reads that as a win for them. As of now Paul Ryan can see this Trump win as a victory that grants him the right to take apart Medicare. He has enough votes in both houses to get a lot of his crazy agenda passed. Is that what the people voted for?
There would be chaos, you say. We would have a government like Italy or Israel. The more probable outcome is that we would have only a few parties and each would have normal relationships that would create coalitions (as in the UK). The Greens and the socialistic Liberals would come together to pass legislation. The difference would be that there would be no doubt as to who won the most votes, so we would know who had the upper hand.
As of now we don’t know what wing of the Republican party is in control. In some ways it seems that they all do. Our new Attorney General is a religious nut who may start arresting weed dispensers for drug trafficking. All our new generals may start invading the Middle East or our own homes. We could see giant new tax cuts tabled at the same time as a government shutdown occurs to protest new spending.
Everyone is asking the same question – What does the Trump victory mean, in terms of policy? The answer will not be: A consistent set of new initiatives to promote the populist rhetoric of his campaign. It’s far more likely to be a grab bag of ideas from all corners of his party. So many people with different agendas are now in the mix there’s almost no way for Trump to control them. It’s a smackdown – Priebus verses Bannon. By having no consistent theme to his cabinet choices or advisers Trump has already lost control.
Let the chaos begin.